Maybe I’ll always be recommending a classic film, here, in my weekly musings on my husband John’s film programs. If so, I may get boring, but I gotta be me.
I generally want people to read classic books and see classic movies, because they’re usually great. A year or two ago, my book group, who usually chooses recent books, decided to read a Jane Austen novel. When I learned that quite a few members had never read any Jane Austen, I pushed hard for Pride and Prejudice. Another member, I learned later, thought this was a predictable and kind of embarrassing choice. She would have opted for a more obscure novel. My rationale was that if you haven’t read any Jane Austen, you should start with Pride and Prejudice. That serves as a template to which you can compare her other books and gives you a little cultural literacy boost. In life, you’re going to run across more allusions to Pride and Prejudice than Mansfield Park.
I realize this attitude represents my teacher self. As it turned out, everyone loved Pride and Prejudice (everyone who came to the discussion, anyway), and even the recalcitrant friend acknowledged that it was well worth rereading.
With that apologia, I encourage you to see Playtime (Saturday, October 20, at 5:00), a 1967 satiric comedy by Jacques Tati. Not because it’s a classic that you “should” see, but because it’s brilliant and funny. Like a character in a Kafka story, Tati’s character Monsieur Hulot can’t find his way to an appointment; he keeps running into sharp corners and uncooperative bureaucrats and unmarked offices. There’s little dialogue or plot, but hundreds of sight gags and stark, beautiful visuals. (Here’s a scene.) Tati spent a fortune (and never recovered financially) designing and building the film’s elaborate sets. François Truffaut wrote that Playtime was “a film that comes from another planet, where they make films differently.”
I guess I’d rank the other films in this order: Kiki’s Delivery Service, The Well-Digger’s Daughter, and David Lynch’s Twin Peaks: Fire Walk with Me. Regarding the last-place choice, I’m not cool enough for Lynch, but if you’re into surreal and weird movies, you should go for it. Kiki’s is another in the Cinematheque series by the great Hayao Miyazaki, all of which are worth seeing.
The Well-Digger’s Daughter looks to be pretty pedestrian to me, a kind of French Masterpiece Theater offering. I liked Daniel Autueil, the director, when he starred in Jean de Florette in the ‘80’s and other films. This looks like an old-fashioned, straightforward retelling of a novel (by Maurice Pagnol). It did get good reviews, but they frequently use words like “traditional” and even “sentimental.”
Tuesday night, the Cinematheque shows Klown, “the funniest film of the year,” at the Capitol Theatre (7:00 pm). I’m going to skip it, warned away by words in John’s flyer like raunchy, taboo, debauchery, and sex-crazed. Maybe you’ll see Klown and laugh a lot. If so, leave your comments here. And let me know what you think of Playtime.